Cook Your Meat Properly
No matter how delicious your food may be, there is no meal that’s worth the feeling of foodborne illness. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 6 Americans get food poisoning every year. The most common sources are the salmonella bacteria and norovirus. While norovirus is usually contracted from produce, salmonella typically comes from uncooked or undercooked meat. Here are some tips for properly storing and cooking your meat to protect yourself from four to six days of miserable debilitation:
Storing your meat
Even if your meat is thoroughly cooked, you could still be in danger of foodborne illness if it wasn’t stored properly. After you buy any meat, be sure to put it in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible, and definitely don’t consume it past the “use by” date. If you’re storing or thawing your meat in the fridge, keep it on a plate on the bottom shelf so if any drips occur, they won’t contaminate anything else in the refrigerator. The fridge is the best way to thaw frozen meat, but if you’re in a hurry, you can do so on the kitchen counter or in the microwave, as long as you eat it right away.
Cooking your meat
When preparing your meal, be sure that the knives and utensils that you use to cut and prepare raw meat go straight into the sink or dishwasher when you’re finished. Don’t use them to handle the finished product. It should go without saying to wash your hands after touching raw meat as well. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, meats should be cooked to the following internal temperatures:
- Ground red meats: 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chicken or turkey (ground or whole): 165 degrees.
- Fish and shellfish: 145 degrees.
- Fresh ham: 160 degrees.
- Precooked ham: 140 degrees.
- Rabbit: 160 degrees.
When cooking steak, it’s imperative that the outer layer of the meat is cooked. A good way to determine the level of doneness for a steak is to use an actual “rule of thumb.” When you touch your index finger to your thumb and touch the pad of your hand, the firmness of your hand resembles a rare steak. Your hand will resemble the firmness of a medium rare steak when you touch your middle finger to your thumb, and so on. Once you take your steak away from the heat source, it will continue to cook internally for about five minutes, so aim for undercooked rather than over.
Eating your meat
Any sort of ground meat needs to be cooked thoroughly. However, beef steak and joints and lamb chops can be safely eaten rare as long as the outside is cooked thoroughly because the bacteria can only grow on the outside of the cut, according to Safe Food. However, children, elderly people and pregnant women should not consume any sort of undercooked meat.